A team of healthcare and wellness professionals working together to keep you healthy is a priceless blessing. But, doctors, dentists, and therapists will all admit that there are definite limits to what they can accomplish if the patient (YOU) isn’t actively engaged in the process.
Staying healthy is not a passive endeavor. It takes knowledge, planning, and action. And, it can’t just be reserved for when you’re visiting a doctor or being rushed to the emergency room. It’s something you can and should be focusing on every day.
With that in mind, review the following simple but powerful five-point wellness check you can perform at home anytime you want to. It’s quick, easy, and free. And, it will ensure you’re taking an active role in your own health and wellness journey. But, the real benefit of this at-home checkup is what happens after you do it. (More on that at the end.)
PLEASE NOTE: What follows cannot (and is not intended to) take the place of your annual wellness visit or any other doctor-prescribed appointments, medications, or procedures. These are simply items to consider routinely to keep yourself on track.
What’s your weight and BMI?
Carrying excess weight is one of the most dangerous and damaging things you can do to your body. It raises your risk of numerous diseases, including some of the worst killers on the loose today:
- Heart disease and stroke
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
It also puts constant strain on joints and bones, leading to pain and inflammation. This, in turn, creates a damaging cycle because it makes physical activity more difficult, exacerbating weight gain.
The society and culture the average American is living in today attacks from three sides:
- Ready access to calorie-dense food that lacks nutrition (like sugary drinks and processed convenience foods)
- An increasingly sedentary work life (most of us sit at a desk or stand at a counter most of the time we’re at work)
- And, an increasingly sedentary home life (with screen-based entertainment the overwhelming favorite of most)
All of those facts converge to make obesity a potential challenge for just about everyone at some point in their lives.
How to check yourself
Doctors measure the health risks of your weight using a simple calculation called Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a measurement of your weight compared to your height, with the resulting figure falling into one of four categories:
- Underweight = <18.5
- Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
- Overweight = 25–29.9
- Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater
You can find a BMI calculator online or in app form. Here’s a link to one provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Simply step onto your bathroom scale to get started. Plug in your weight and height, and review the results. If your BMI is over 25, it’s time to seriously consider adjusting your diet and exercise routine to get your weight under control.
Are you active enough?
Your level of physical activity is directly tied to weight management, as noted above. But, it goes beyond that, too. Being physically active also has a bearing on cardiovascular health, endurance, strength, longevity, and even mental and emotional wellbeing. In fact, there’s really no aspect of your health and welfare that exercise doesn’t improve.
Sadly, as mentioned above, we live in a sedentary society. All day, every day, many of us don’t have to move more than a few steps in any direction if we don’t want to. That means, if you’re going to become more active it needs to be a conscious decision and it’s going to take effort.
How to check yourself
Here are the guidelines published by the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding physical activity:
- Adults aged 18–64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
- Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration.
- For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
- Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
If you’re not yet meeting those minimum requirements, don’t panic or hurt yourself trying to do too much too fast. Just set some reasonable goals to add a little more physical activity into your daily routine and work your way up.
For a jump start, check out these 6 Tips for Getting a Move On at Work.
How is your mental and emotional health?
Of course, physical health is only part of your overall well being. Your mental and emotional health play a huge role in both the length and the quality of your life. Here are some eye-opening statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
- People with depression have a 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population. People with serious mental illness are nearly twice as likely to develop these conditions.
- 19.3% of U.S. adults with mental illness also experienced a substance use disorder in 2018 (9.2 million individuals)
- The rate of unemployment is higher among U.S. adults who have mental illness (5.8%) compared to those who do not (3.6%)
- High school students with significant symptoms of depression are more than twice as likely to drop out compared to their peers
How to check yourself
If you know you’re dealing with mental or emotional challenges that require medication and/or other treatment, never skip a dose or appointment thinking it’s not that important. Depression and mood disorders are insidious in the way they sneak up on you and take over when you think you’re doing just fine.
If you’ve never been diagnosed with a mental or emotional illness, but you struggle with unexplained and prolonged feelings of sadness, anger, or worthlessness, don’t hesitate to see a professional as soon as possible. They can help you get to the bottom of it and, if necessary, set up a treatment plan that can bring stability back into your life.
Do you have any bad habits that need to be addressed?
This should be a quick and simple check:
- Do you smoke?
- Do you drink too much alcohol on a regular basis?
- Do you routinely sleep less than 7 hours per night?
- Would you be embarrassed to put your daily diet on display at your doctor’s office?
- Do you tend to stay sedentary as much as possible?
- Do you isolate yourself?
More are probably popping into your mind too, as they relate to you personally. The point of all these soul searching questions is simply this: these are all habits. Habits that are doing harm, but — most importantly — that can be broken.
It’s not realistic to attack all of them at once, so pick one and develop a plan to weed it out of your life little by little. Work with your doctor or other specialists as needed, and involve friends and family who care about you and want to see you succeed.
What do the professionals say?
Finally, although it’s been mentioned a number of times above, it bears repeating: rely on your team of healthcare and wellness professionals to lend their advice, monitor your progress, and take action to help when necessary. That’s why they’re there, and none of us can perfectly maintain optimal health alone.
Take advantage of the preventive checkups and standard annual tests your doctor recommends. Speak to your therapist regularly if it’s helping you. Work with a personal trainer to improve your workouts. Learn from a yoga instructor. Get a massage.
See, you can do this simple wellness check at home whenever you like, but no matter what answers you come up with, you’re best bet for achieving the best possible you is to take action and work with a support network behind you.